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The Payback Kid

The Flapper once told me that TV shows are written for the 12 year old brain. Watching TV, therefore, would warp my mind and keep my critical thinking skills at a minimum. Of course she couldn’t have factored in streaming sites, or HGTV for that matter, but still my Mother was one smart cookie. Like Lenin, she also told me that religion was for sheep, and did I want to lead the crowd or be led? What rebellious kid wants to go to church anyway, especially one who had just been kicked out of Camp St Joseph for Girls!

Lately, I feel like watching and listening and to some extent even reading the news out of Washington is like time traveling back to my pre-teenage years. Omarosa is roasting Mr T every day with a naughty bit of audio tape. The Queen of Soul dies and Mr T’s take is that she worked for him? And anyone who has anything to do with the Russia investigation better watch out, they might have their security clearance taken away – kinda like being unplugged!

Because we have a twelve year old payback president who calls the free press his enemy.

My 3 am TV channel was tuned to PBS last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by a documentary on what’s happening in Iran now. It followed a Western guy “Our Man in Tehran” who spoke perfect Persian and interviewed modern, middle-class Iranians, including a middle-aged Persian pop star in LA! It was so good and compelling I woke Bob to tell him that Persian sounds just like Hebrew!   https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/watch-how-the-internet-has-changed-iran-from-cappuccino-cafes-to-headscarf-protests/

Why, you might ask, was I awake at 3 am? Well, I found out I need to have a Mohs procedure done on my dominant hand thanks to sun damage. But in the middle of the night I thought about how alike we all are, how connected via the internet, even Iranians have Instagram. How it’s only the different myths we believe that separate us, as if any one country or culture owns God, even if she/he exists. It was almost a religious experience. And this morning, I give you the Dalai Lama on Twitter:

“I am one of the 7 billion human beings alive today. We each have a responsibility to think about humanity and the good of the world because it affects our own future. We weren’t born on this planet at this time to create problems but to bring about some benefit.” 

So are you a problem maker or a problem solver? Taking retribution against your “enemies” is pretty pathetic, so is tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and walking away from the rest of the whole damn world on climate change. Swinging tariffs around like a bully in the playground. It feels like we have a 12 year old steering the ship, this reality nightmare of a Congress that is 2018.

I was a senior in high school when Aretha sang “Respect.” She was a mighty warrior queen who gave my generation of women its anthem. I will pay it forward, not back, by redoubling my efforts to register young voters and support Planned Parenthood – the one and ONLY clinic left in TN to provide abortions. If we cannot control our own bodies, respect will become an empty noun.

ps, we voted early this month!

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The Prosecution of Paul Manafort rests, and I’ve heard that Judge Ellis III doesn’t just swing a gavel, he swings a battering ram with nails. Soon enough a jury of his “peers” will decide if this friend and former campaign manager of Mr T deserves a jail sentence for tax fraud. Oh how I wish I was at the beach last week with the Groom’s family since his father just retired from a government career holding such people accountable… Grandpa Mike might have been able to shed some light on the world of financial crime.

A world full of greed, lies and manipulation as another tax attorney described it. So, as an antidote to the escalating breaking news of the day, I offer you my two cents:

Instead of greed, altruism. I spent a good part of yesterday with The Love Bug, and on our morning Ms Bean walk she happened to find some pennies. In a few weeks she will turn 6, and so she is starting to learn about money. Later, in the car with her Mama, she asked me to look for homeless people so we could give them some money! That was the sweet news, but unfortunately in Nashville, we have our fair share of homeless.

Instead of lies, truth. Differentiating between lying and truth-telling begins at about this age, which is why the Catholic Church chose 7 as the age for Communion. But some people never quite get it, they conflate and exaggerate the truth, or ignore it altogether. Our L’il Pumpkin is almost 4 and loves super heroes, so whenever I play Wonder Woman to his Batman I throw my invisible lasso of truth around the bad guys (usually a big stuffed bear). I believe in brutal honesty, and so does that bear!

Instead of manipulation, role-modeling. If you want someone to change their behavior, particularly a child, bribery does help but modeling the behavior you desire works best. I would always bring soup to new moms when the Bride was little, and I was happy to see she has continued this tiny tradition with her friends. Whenever I watch the Love Bug pick tomatoes from their garden, I think back to the Berkshires and the short growing season our tomatoes endured – the love of garden “candy,” of eating healthy, real food is being passed down to the next generation.

I could care less what Omorosa has to say, but I DO care that Mr T called her a “dog” this morning in a Tweet. Do you remember when a radio personality lost his job for calling the hair of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “kinky?” Can the racist, misogynistic hate please stop! It seems like our level of discourse may never recover from this presidency.

But for a final bit of good news, did you know there’s a large group of “Grannies” who have made their way to the Texas/Mexico border to protest the separation of families? They boarded two big vans in NY and picked up almost 2,000 more seniors heading south!

Like most others on board, Ms Mellen’s motivation for joining – a belief in the “designed, intentional cruelty” of the administration’s immigration policies – was deepened by maternal experience.

“Being a mother and a grandmother I know the incredible connection I feel toward my children and my grandbabies, and you put their faces on these children,” Ms. Mellen said.

“I can’t imagine the pain.” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45174891

No human is illegal, and every grandma is a gift.  IMG_3121

 

 

 

 

 

A New Niece

Ever since Great Grandma Ada and Hudson moved to Nashville, Bob and I have been busy with the myriad friends and relatives who have come to visit them. First it was Hudson’s son-in-law, then his daughter from Arkansas.  Next up, Kathy and her ex from NC went to the museum with all of us. Then an old friend, Toni from FL came by, and she and Ada Facetimed with Toni’s new grandbaby.  But the last visitor stole the show!

We finally met Dickie’s daughter, Tamara.

When Ada first heard the news during rehab she was ecstatic. It made all her hard work after hip surgery bearable. Dickie was her middle son, the handsome desperado who went to Mexico for medical school and in some ways never returned. He died too young. In fact, the Rocker’s Bar Mitzvah was just a few weeks later. His very first band played at the beach party we threw for all the Eighth Grade! Dickie would have loved that evening.

Why he didn’t tell us about Tamara we’ll never know. He wrote to her, and her birth mother Kathy, once she found him. By that time his daughter was in her early 20s. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to meet Tammy; it must have been a shock to find out that twenty years ago you went to Woodstock but somewhere in NC, in one of those horrible homes for young pregnant girls, your baby was born. And against Kathy’s wishes, Tammy was given up just days later for adoption.

I’d been on pins and needles, waiting to meet her. We saw pictures of Tammy and her family – Ada now has two new Great Grandsons – and I kept trying to see Dickie in their eyes. I just wasn’t sure, until I walked into Ada’s new apartment and looked at both of them, Grandmother and Grand Daughter together. I realized Tammy takes after Ada’s family, like Bob and Jeff. Dickie looked like his father, blonde and fair, it didn’t occur to me that of course DNA can do extraordinary things!

She has Dickie’s wavy hair and his smile, but the rest is pure Ada. Those dark Russian eyes, and the sparkle to go along with them. She loves history and music. Her voice is honeyed by her Southern roots. She is beautiful, smart and sensible, and lucky for her, she grew up in a loving, intact home. Unlike most adopted children, Tammy didn’t seek out her birth parents, so this rag-tag team of Yankee Jewish relatives was a big surprise. For most of her life she thought she was Italian!

We laughed, we ate, we shopped at Talbots, we talked, we celebrated our good fortune. We added another link to our family totem; our tree of life has sprouted a new branch.

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You’d be hard pressed to find me talking tariffs, but here goes…

What I know about Economy 101 is simply the guns vs butter parable – a country who spends more on guns, spends less on feeding its people. I get that, the more we spend on prisons, the less we spend on schools. But today, tariffs are going to start again for Iran according to the Twitter fingers of Mr T, and maybe I should be worried but I’m kind of stuck on an overdrive of worry.

Why are those cave boys from Thailand becoming monks?

Why is Norway separating children from their parents?

What exactly won’t I be buying from Tehran?

And just when my feminist heart was melting because Saudi Arabia finally “allowed” its women to drive cars, I just read that Canada has decided to sanction Saudi Arabia on Human Rights violations.

Saudi authorities in 2018 continued to arbitrarily arrest, try, and convict peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities. In 2017, Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes. A Saudi-led coalition continued an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included the use of banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed civilians.  https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/saudi-arabia

CANADA mind you! Not us, no we just love strong rulers.

Remember how much Ivanka and her dad fawned over that new young Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The one who held up his relatives and 200 of the richest Saudis in an airport until they paid their taxes to the crown. Well, not to be outdone, the Prince has retaliated by: evicting the Canadian ambassador; stopped all commercial airline flights to Canada; ordered 16,000 Saudi students to come home; AND placed an immediate freeze on all investments and bilateral trade agreements between Saudi Arabia and Canada!

I guess Riyadh will have to buy maple syrup from Vermont?

This has me wondering if sanctions and tariffs actually work? Or are they just symbolic slaps on the wrist of an increasingly entitled corporate global structure that can shift easily between ruling oligarchs and demagogues, and princes. According to The Washington Post, some goods and services are better than others to sanction. Usually there’s a point at which the demand for something goes up, the price will come down, except for iPhones. But consider Veblen goods, they perform in a contradictory way like diamonds – the more demand we have the higher the price.

“Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/08/07/why-in-the-world-is-saudi-arabia-sanctioning-canada/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.26a5b146bfb2

Since most countries don’t have the resources to even impose sanctions on one another, the author posits that Prince bin Salman is showing the West his peacock plumage. He is arresting women activists while also letting them drive cars, so they know who is in charge. And he can throw out the Canadian Ambassador because he CAN, ratcheting up his prestige on the world stage…making tariffs and sanctions into a kind of Veblen good. Criticize Saudi Arabia at your peril!

Thorstein Veblen was an economist who coined the term “conspicuous consumption” in 1899. I wonder if he ever thought a Narcissistic real estate con-man who lived in a gilded tower in Manhattan could ever become President of these United States.

Patriotism, Veblen once said, was the only obstacle to peace among nations. Let that sink in.

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Papal Peace

All good (and lapsed) Catholics remember St Francis of Assisi, standing around with birds on his shoulders and animals curled around his stone feet. He was the one saint everybody loved because his tenet was, “All Creatures are One Family.” So it’s only right that the modern day Pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church should be named Francis; he sleeps in the most spartan bedroom at the Vatican and rides around in a Ford. He washes the feet of the poor.

And now Pope Francis said that the death penalty is unacceptable in all cases. He called it an attack on human dignity and has actually changed the Catechism (that little book I started each and every day with at Sacred Heart School) to reflect the Church’s new directive.

Maybe it’s time I went back to church? Right before the papal news broke, I was telling the dermatologist, who was digging a crater of squamous cells out of the back of my hand, all about my escapades at Camp St Joseph. Sure enough, he knew if the girls were on one side of the lake, the boys were on the other!

I was 16 when I lost my faith, and almost 30 when I found Judaism. Granted I was marrying Bob, but my decision to convert was deeply rooted in my desire to raise a healthy, cohesive family. There would be none of that back and forth from one place of worship to another, and neither did I want my children growing up without ANY religious foundation. That just seemed wrong to me.

And early on in the process of learning about the Jewish people, I had a vivid dream that the Pope forgave me! Of course, that was the year of three Popes, so I’m not sure which one it was!

The year 1978 will long be remembered as the year of the three popes. The not unexpected death of Pope Paul VI on August 6th, 1978, was followed on August 26th by the election of the “Smiling Pope,” John Paul I. Reigning only 33 days, the length in years of Our Lord’s earthly life, he died in his sleep of a heart attack on September 28th. Only a few weeks later on October 16th, 1978, the College of Cardinals elected Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, as the first non-Italian Pope since Adrian VI (1522-1523). His pontificate has been one of the most remarkable in history.  https://www.ewtn.com/johnpaul2/life/1978.htm

Even though that last one, the first non-Italian, Polish Pope, John Paul II, never officially apologized for the Vatican’s Holocaust-era activities, and he defended Pope Pius XII, who did very little to help the Jews and Christian priests during WWII, even advancing him toward sainthood.

I knew I liked Pope Francis when he was asked about homosexuality on a plane, he replied to the reporter, “Who am I to judge?” Well he IS the Pope. And just this morning I was reading about his visit with 500 schoolchildren. A little boy asked him how he felt when he heard that he had been elected Pope, and he told him he felt “PEACE.” And it made sense, because the current Pope has turned away from divisive social issues like abortion to minister to the poor. The Flapper always said you can get more bees with honey.

I thought perhaps Francis’ legacy would eventually allow women into the priesthood! Even thinking this in the past would have been a mortal sin! But he took the name of the saint to all creatures, and recruiting nuns in this day and age cannot be easy.

I wish Pope Francis would visit the Ayatollah, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei aka the current Supreme Leader of Iran. He seemed to be getting along with President Obama, and currently, I’m pretty sure he views Mr T as the rest of the world does, a wild card. We might actually rid the world of nuclear weapons if the Pope walked into a bar with the Ayatollah. #WorldPeaceSummit

And maybe this American Girl could grow up to be President one day!

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The First

First of all, Happy Happy Birthday to my firstborn son. He is kind, talented and fearless. He’s been laser-focused on all-things-music since he was seven years old. Last year he married his first love, then won two Cleos, and then, this year, he started his own company! If we parents can’t brag about our own children, well who will? Sorry Sister Mary Claire, being humble had its place once upon a time.

IF I’d thought of it, I would have put up a “Happy Birthday” billboard in LA.

Because we Americans can say whatever the heck we please in public right? Well, not exactly – that First Amendment is tricky. It uses an archaic verb to say what the government can’t do to our freedom of speech; it cannot “abridge” speech…which doesn’t mean legislators can stop a person from speaking.

Abridge comes from the word abbreviate, so it refers to: shortening/omitting/diminishing/depriving.

In other words, let’s have a civil discourse and not interrupt each other with opinions that at times might fly far from facts, and incite violence. I’ll be watching closely the court case this week against Alex Jones, the Austin based mogul of Infowars media. He spread rumors that the Sandy Hook massacre of elementary school children and their teachers was a hoax, causing the parents of Noah Pozner to move SEVEN times because Jones also reported their new address to his conspiracy-obsessed-gun-toting followers.         https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/us/politics/alex-jones-defamation-suit-sandy-hook.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

And in Germany, the government has decided to send out Holocaust educators and bullying experts into its schools since it has seen a rise in Anti-Semitic, Holocaust denier rhetoric, something that country takes very, very seriously. In this case it seems that, unlike Mark Zuckerberg, hate speech will not be tolerated.

“…a brutalised climate now, in which more people feel emboldened to say anti-Semitic things on the internet and in the street”. “Previously that was unthinkable, but the threshold has dropped.”  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44725066T

We walk a serpentine line today as the soap box in the town square has turned into the world wide web – every paranoid schizophrenic or malicious Neo-Nazi can broadcast their misleading, patently false, absurd speech to anyone with a phone. And today, we came very close to being able to 3-D print a gun anywhere at anytime without a background check.

Let’s raise the threshold this November. Look for the “Gun Sense” symbol of approval on a candidate’s resume. And don’t be fooled by the GOP’s “I’m not a politician” rhetoric, that just means they will do Mr T’s bidding. It’s like saying, hey he’s not a brain surgeon but I want him to operate on my brain anyway. I borrowed that from Bob, my first love!

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Under His Eye

“What you’re seeing is not happening…”

Well, I thought to myself, now THAT’s rich! Mr T was speaking to a group of veterans, he actually told them not to believe anything they see or read! Coming from our Serial-Liar-in-Chief, I could only hope my suspension of disbelief will hold out, at least until November. Because, “Winter is Coming.”

And who knows, in this Hall of Mirrors Presidency, if Putin is coming here with his cyber-security force, or Mr T is going there. But it feels as if we are stuck in a midsummer nightmare with indictments raining down and audio tapes stuck on rewind. And worst of all, the possible nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court, which would swing the pendulum to the right – I can only hope the federal appeals judge will face an extremely rough confirmation fight.

Because while Latin American countries and even Ireland have started to repeal their archaic laws banning abortion, the US has slowly and insidiously been restricting women’s rights for years. In the last decade 29 states have introduced laws restricting a woman’s access to an abortion, either by overt TRAP laws that make clinics close because they cannot comply with their regulations, or covert laws that make a woman view the untrasound and wait a certain number of days.

Read up on the anti-abortion zealot Judge Kavanaugh https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/brett-kavanaugh-roe-v-wade-697634/

I’m only in the middle of the first season of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it seems that dressing up as a mix of the nuns at Sacred Heart School and St Joseph Camp for Girls and Little Red Riding Hood has become a thing! And it’s not just in the good ole USA to protest abortion restrictions in Ohio, or a visit to Philly by Vice President Pence.

Red-coated women are popping up all over the world to fight for our human rights.

The Handmaids are marching in Croatia, Northern Ireland, and England. They stand in silence in Poland and Argentina. Their white-bonnet heads are bowed in Italy, where abortion is legal but70% of doctors refuse to perform the procedure due to their Catholic faith. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-44965210

I wish I didn’t believe this MAGA movement, this dystopian disruption of everything we progressives hold dear. But when the GOP tells you who are they are, believe them. And since a bunch of conservative Republicans could impeach a president for pulling down his pants in the Oval Office, and then lying about it, what are they waiting for now? Mr T is a serial liar, only it’s not about sex mind you, or maybe it iskinda – it’s not all about payoffs to porn stars and knowledge of Russian help in the election; it’s about collusion and obstruction of justice.

The same conservative Cville blogger who left court this week yelling anti-Semetic epithets at reporters on Town Square, has filed a petition to hold another “Unite the Right” march in DC next month on the anniversary of Heather Heyer’s murder. A young woman who wanted to spread compassion and peace. A modern day martyr.

Next month is the Rocker’s birthday, and then Bob’s and the Love Bug

Next month the Great Grands will go on a Cumberland River cruise

Next month I will have a patch of squamous cell carcinoma dug out of my hand

And next month, I’m hoping this midsummer nightmare will end.

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